Produced in 1957, the Canon L1 was an improved VT with a thumb rewind crank. The L1 was a refinement of the VT and Canon's continued fight against the Leica M3.
Compared to the VT, the L1 is a bit smaller mostly due to the use of a thumb winder vs the VT trigger wind. Both use dedicated finder adjustment that let you select 50/35/RF in the rangefinder. The 50 and 35 are for use of 50mm or 35mm lens and the view matches the lens. So you get the lens view without frame lines. The RF gives you a magnification view. I suppose the RF would be great for fine focus. I did not use it and just kept in on 35 for the 35mm lens. The selection for the rangefinder is a wheel on the back under the viewfinder. I did have the problem of this getting moved in my bag so when I pulled it out it was on the wrong setting.
The L1 also added a lock latch on the bottom, that with the door release make it very unlikely that you will open the back unintentionally. The rewind uses a unique recessed crank design.
I shot this with a 35mm Canon lens. The set up felt smaller than it is. Even though it is slightly smaller than the VT it is still slightly larger than an M3. Not in a bad way, because it feel nice in the hand. Quality is solid.
I like the "eye ball" indicator to show that the film is advancing (alway one of my worries). The frame count requires a manual reset and the adjustment wheel (though recessed) is subject to being bumped. The speed selection dial is cramped at the higher speeds, making it hard for old eyes to tell between 1000, 500 or 250.
I enjoyed this camera. The rangefinder was not as bright as a Leica but it was adequate. It is a screw mount body so you can use all the great old lens for Canon and Leica. For less than you will have to pay for a Leica M3 or even a IIIf, you can have most of the fun. And esthetically, the L1 is a great looking camera.
Lens: Canon 35mm 2.0
Film: Illford HP5 Plus 400